The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

2 April 2005

Saturday spottings (the Grand tour)

W. H. Dunn was a landscape architect in Kansas City in the early 1900s, eventually becoming the Superintendent of Parks. His duties in Kansas City, however, apparently didn't prevent him from helping out other cities in need: in 1909, he developed the first official parks plan for Oklahoma City. One of the features in Dunn's plan was a boulevard to encircle the city, connecting regional parks in each quadrant. Not much happened on that front until 1930, when the boulevard was incorporated into The City Plan for Oklahoma City, and the process of acquiring rights of way began.

Grand Boulevard, as it was called, was never finished: a lot of non-contiguous sections were built, but the circle was never completed, and some of the areas intended for the circle were ultimately usurped for freeway use. Still, there's enough of it to make a day trip of it, and that's what I did, starting the circle at 12:00 and heading clockwise.

Northeast: The road begins, so to speak, at about 1500 NE 63rd Street, west of the National Cowboy Museum, heading south under Interstate 44 and then turning southeastward. The east side is largely undeveloped; the west side is residential. Grand crosses Martin Luther King Avenue at the 5400 block, where the name disappears in favor of "Remington Place," after the racetrack. On the far side of the track, on the way to the Softball Hall of Fame, Remington Place becomes NE 50th Street, and Grand slices off to the right, splitting the Lincoln Park golf courses. Past 36th, on the way to the Railway Museum and the OKNG, the road deteriorates; the last turnoff is 29th, which crosses under Interstate 35, and south of 29th it dead-ends. Grand picks up again at 23rd as a mostly-residential street on both sides of I-35; the eastern leg runs past Edwards Park and becomes the I-35 service road, ending at 10th, while the western leg veers off slightly to the west and becomes a divided road with a grassy median, which feeds into 10th and which dead-ends south of 10th, just beyond the I-35 southbound onramp.

Southeast: Grand reappears at 2800 East Reno and curves along for a couple of miles through an area largely devoted to light industry. East of the roadway is the South Grand Trail, for pedestrian and bicycle use; it jumps across the street on the way into Trosper Park as the circle turns back westward. (The Grand entrance into Trosper is no longer open to motor vehicles, perhaps to benefit trail users; motorists must enter on SE 29th.) Across I-35, Grand heads straight west to play its secondary role as 36th Street; just beyond the I-35 service road, Grand becomes a divided road again, and the trail runs down the median, where it will remain until Stiles, where the road narrows and the trail becomes essentially a sidewalk on the south side. This is an old working-class residential neighborhood: the houses are small, but most of them seem to be kept up.

Southwest: Once west of Santa Fe and into the southwest quadrant, Grand opens up into a divided road once more, and the trail returns to the median. This was a spiffy street in its time, running past Capitol Hill High School and its stadium, and it still looks pretty good today, considering its advanced age. About thirty years ago some of the street signs indicated both "SW 36th St" and "Grand Blvd"; I didn't see any of those around, and there are a couple of signs that read simply "36th St", but all the new signage says simply "Grand Blvd". At May Avenue, Grand becomes an access road into Woodson Park, which terminates at SW 33rd; the trail continues on for another mile and a half or so. Grand reappears at SW 27th on the west side of I-44 and continues northward to SW 15th, just east of the Dell campus.

Northwest: The northbound road out of State Fair Park, just east of I-44, becomes the eastern leg of Grand as it passes NW 10th Street, and it's one-way north, ending at NW 23rd. The western leg runs from Liberty Street, between 11th and 12th, to just north of 36th; it's one-way south except through Will Rogers Park. Everything is interrupted for 39th Street/Route 66. There are discontinuous segments east of the Lake Hefner Parkway between 40th and 44th, and between 45th Terrace and 46th; the road resumes at 50th and continues into the Integris Baptist Medical Center, then picks up again for a couple of blocks south of 63rd. On the west side of the Parkway, there's a stretch from 50th to Northwest Expressway. Another break, and then a single segment west of the Parkway from 65th to South Lake Hefner Drive; hang a right, and in a couple of blocks you're back on Grand, four lanes with a median, heading east. (There's a Grand Drive on the east side of the Parkway, in case you weren't confused enough.) And half a mile east of May, the Nichols Hills city limits beckon. Up to this point, the numbering system has sort of made sense, but once you pass Pennsylvania (2301 is on the corner), you're in the 6900 block heading southeast. At Woods Park the road splits, with residential strips on either side, while the main road runs down the center of the park. Single lanes return south of Sherwood Lane, and at 63rd Grand returns to Oklahoma City, crossing Western at 57th and going back to east-west numbering (that first block is the 1000s). The rest of the way parallels I-44, finally ending at Robinson Avenue.

The real question, I suppose, is "How Grand is it?" The neighborhoods vary about as widely as possible; the southside stretch is probably the closest to what the 1930 Plan called for, but the Nichols Hills segment commands by far the biggest bucks. And I'd hate to be delivering pizza on this road, at least until I'd learned every last section of it in my part of town. Still, even in its unfinishable state, it's something sort of unique, the parks fall into place where they're supposed to, and I was happy to blow three hours and a quarter-tank of gas trying to get the feel of it — especially since during those three hours, the station where I filled up at the start of the trip raised its price by six cents a gallon.

Posted at 6:36 PM to City Scene


Added tidbit:
When first arriving in Oklahoma we had a short stint living near Trosper Park. Just south of Grand was (is?) an undeveloped wooded area with a few oil rigs, a couple of which were active at the time. On one of our nature walks, we discovered an outcropping of rose rocks. Some of very nice quality. Over the next few months we collected enough that we have given away dozens over the years and still reatain a large stash.

Posted by: MikeH at 2:37 PM on 3 April 2005

There still isn't any development to speak of over that way. I don't think this is the Next Big Thing, but sooner or later the gaps in the urbanized area are going to get filled in.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:01 PM on 3 April 2005